Beyond the Burning Time

Book review by
Jennifer Docherty, Common Sense Media
Beyond the Burning Time Book Poster Image
Fascinating, graphic look at Salem witch trials.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Shows the danger of mass hysteria.


Explicit references to hangings. The lead character threatens her mother's persecutors with a knife and expresses her desire to stab them. Explicit references to witchcraft and a bloodthirsty mob. Mary Chase and Sarah Procter envision killing their mothers' persecutors. Children face the imminent hanging of their mother.


A farmhand watches Virginia Chase undress. Brief references to a widower engaging in extramarital sex. Virginia is stripped during an examination by leering magistrates.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that complex characters and a spine-tingling plot will have many readers racing through the novel to find out what happens next. Still, some parents won't feel comfortable when Mary tells her brother, "I will scratch. I will cut. I will stab. I will kill to find out where Mother is and save her."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Teen, 13 years old Written byGabanator August 25, 2012

Pause and Know Your Kid

This book is really good at giving an interesting account of the Salem Witch trials. However a few things are not mentioned in the review. This is a direct quot... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byalyssaa767 April 9, 2008

A must for ANY american

This book is amazing and powerful. I have read it twice! Once by myself and once for school. Powerful, descriptive, and a great thinker.

What's the story?

In an age of superstition, the hysterical ravings of young women whip a town into a frenzy that will not end until twenty-four people have lost their lives. By turns exciting and horrifying, Kathryn Lasky's novel tells the story of Mary and Caleb Chase's race to save their mother, who must escape from Salem or be hanged as a witch.


Is it any good?

BEYOND THE BURNING TIME is a fascinating look at the Salem witch trials. Lasky excerpts much of her material from sermons, trial testimonies, and contemporary histories, cleverly blending fact and fiction. Her fictional characters are skillfully conceived and believable. Many readers will identify with Mary Chase, someone apart from the hysteria who struggles to understand the motivations of the young women and the townspeople supporting them.

The novel is packed with scenes of searing emotional intensity. When Mary views a hanging for the first time or when Virginia Chase tells her children to abandon her and save themselves, the scenes draw the reader in as a witness to these painful events. Ultimately, Mary becomes immersed in this culture of violence and tells her brother, "I will scratch. I will cut. I will stab. I will kill to find out where Mother is and save her." Though her response is certainly believable, it may disturb younger readers. This point aside, Lasky's novel is a riveting read that even many reluctant readers will find hard to put down.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Salem witch trials. Do you think the women who were believed to be witches really had special powers that they used for evil means?

  • How does this book compare to other stories your read or seen in movies about the Salem witch trials?

  • Was the public justified in wanting to eliminate these women?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history

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